Looking for everything about the ski season in Niseko, Japan? Here is our travel guide on what you need to know about skiing in Niseko with kids!
Japan is finally open to individual travellers, visa-free and just in time for the ski season! Here’s our guide on how to have the perfect family ski vacation (and why you should choose Niseko in Hokkaido, Japan for skiing with kids!).
Why choose Niseko to ski with children?
“Niseko” refers to the four resorts located on the slopes of Mount Niseko-Annupuri in Hokkaido, Japan, collectively known as Niseko United. Every winter, freezing winds from Siberia sweep across the Sea of Japan, reacting with its moisture to produce the driest, fluffiest powder snow and dump it on the mountains of Hokkaido. With 15-18 meters of snow per season, Niseko is one of the snowiest resorts in the world and a great place for kids to learn to ski!
Another bonus – being in Hokkaido, a destination renowned for its superb produce, whether it’s dairy, meat or seafood, makes Niseko a natural paradise for foodies and chefs, and cuisine Japanese, rich in umami (like Italian food) is also great for younger palates.
When does the Niseko ski season start?
The 2022/23 ski season runs from December 3, 2022 to May 7, 2023, but the best time to go is honestly the second half of February to mid-March!
How to get to Niseko from Singapore
At the moment, only Scoot flies directly from Singapore to Hokkaido, Japan. It is 7.5 hours from Singapore to Hokkaido’s New Chitose Airport. The alternatives go through Tokyo, but be careful when booking as some layovers in Tokyo require airport changes.
Once in Hokkaido you will need to take a coach for the 2 hour journey up the mountain, it is a painless scenic journey through Resort lineror arrange a private transfer via Sky Express. Don’t forget to stock up on snacks (sando and onigiri!) for the ride to the Lawson in the arrivals hall of the airport.
Which ski resort Niseko stay with kids
Which Niseko Ski Resort you stay at depends on your needs, although here the term “resort” encompasses not just one accommodation option, but several unique places to stay on either side of the mountain.
Niseko Hanazono Ski Resort
Where to stay: The easternmost resort town of Mount Niseko-Annupuri, Hanazono is a bit secluded but perfect for toddlers. The Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono is breathtaking, and outside the ski resort has a brand new gondola lift – ideal for those who are not yet comfortable with the idea of taking their children on the lifts! The groomed runs are wide and suitable for beginner to intermediate skiers.
Where to eat: There aren’t many options here but at the base for the lifts, Hanazono edge is cafeteria style with a wide variety of lunch and après ski options. Park Hyatt offers some eight dining options, including Molière Montagne with 3-star Michelin chef Hiroshi Nakamichi. For more casual dining, we love Olivio and China Kitchen. Park Hyatt is also the only place in Hokkaido to serve Pierre Herme pastries, if you like. For something really special, the chef’s table at Somoza, a restaurant and private gallery located in a 150 year old wooden house, nestled in the birch forest, is unforgettable.
Niseko Grand Hirafu Ski Resort
The busiest of the four resorts, Hirafu can best be described as buzzing.
Where to stay: There are several luxury condos and apartments, self-contained chalets, villas and lodges to stay in, and the stretch through Upper, Middle and Lower Hirafu. Five star boutique hotel sansui opens in December 2022, Murasaki Cottage is the only ski-in ski-out chalet in Niseko, The maples offers full-service apartments by the slopes (don’t miss Singaporean chef Willin Low’s winter pop-up, Rocketto) and then there is the 6 bedroom chalet, Soseki.
Where to eat: Hirafu will be spoiled for choice! We like Tsubara Tsubara for Hokkaido-style curry soup with varying levels of spice, Niseko Ramen for potato ramen, The Mountaineer for fondue and raclette, Ebisutei for izakaya delights, Bion for a smoky, succulent Italian-style firewood barbecue, and Jojo‘s for burgers and the like (with playground and climbing area for the little ones). If you have time to sneak into a bar, choose Bargyu+, – this iconic Niseko institution makes solid cocktails and is all winter. Here, Lawson, the quintessential Japanese convenience store, and delis such as Green Farm will keep you well stocked.
Niseko Niseko Village Ski Resort
East of Annupuri, Niseko Village offers ski-in ski-out holidays for all budgets.
Where to stay: There is the hilton for classic international hospitality, The green leaf for modern Japanese inflections, Hinode Hills for spacious apartments with views of Mount Yotei, Townhouses Kasara for luxury residences with concierge service, and the all-new 50-room Higashiyama Niseko Village, Japan’s first Ritz-Carlton reserve. There’s also a shopping village for those looking for clothes and souvenirs, while for groceries, the mobile supermarket that visits Hinode Hills weekly offers a true Japanese experience.
Where to eat: We like Pub Ezo at the Hilton for its easy access (ski boots accepted) and good meals for all members of the family. The crab shack for fresh Hokkaido crab in a pot, and don’t miss either Niseko Takahashi Dairy Farm for its excellent cabbage, soft cream and milk (bonus: the bus stop is just outside). Within the same territory, practice also has a children’s play area.
Niseko Annupuri Ski Resort
The westernmost resort town of Niseko United, Annupuri has a distinctly quaint charm.
Where to stay: There are a handful of accommodation options on offer, from hotels to guesthouses and ryokan, but we love the lavish Annupuri Gardenwhich offers spacious 200 sqm apartments, fully equipped kitchens, laundry facilities, private onsen, excellent bakery and cafe, and a free shuttle to the nearest ski slope.
Where to eat: Jthe handmade Rakuichi soba bar made popular by the late Anthony Bourdain, and Pizza del Sole are unavoidable.
Ski passes and ski rental equipment in Niseko
If you plan to ski, get your ski passes directly at the Niseko United website depending on where you are staying or your level of skiing. The selection and professional service make Rhythm Niseko in Grand Hirafu our go-to place to rent gear, but you can just as easily rent at the resort where you’re staying.
Ski lessons in Niseko
If you need lessons, we highly recommend Hokkaido Ski Club, Niseko Village Snow School and GoSnow – each will offer great snow programs for children of all ages.
What else to do in Niseko with children?
When you’re not skiing, there are plenty of snow activities to try (depending on where you’re staying) such as snowshoeing, snowmobiling, horseback riding, tubing, snow rafting and of course, chilling out are you at onsen.
Onsens are Japanese hot springs that are said to have therapeutic effects due to the minerals in the hot springs waters coming from the surrounding mountains – respect onsen etiquette though; be quiet, bathe before entering, throw away all your clothes, hang on to your small hand towel and no cell phones. Children can also expend their energy on the climbing wall at Jojo’s in Hirafu, play galaxy of children in Hanazono or do a winter camp with EdVenture.
Traveling to Niseko with children
Your Niseko ski pass gives you free access to the Niseko United shuttle, which runs on schedule, rotating between the four stations. Alternatively, taxis can be ordered, but they are expensive. There are also car rentals, but you will need an international driving license to rent in Japan.
More Sassy Mama tips:
- Travelers to Japan must pre-register their passport and arrival/stay details online here. They must also indicate their vaccination status; if not fully vaccinated, a PCR test must be performed 72 hours before. Persons under the age of 18 traveling with fully vaccinated parents/guardians do not need to do PCR or show full vaccination certificates.
- Stay warm and cozy with good quality winter clothes that you can buy or rent in Singapore. We love Uniqlo HeatTech, and layer the fleece, scarves and hats, then make sure you have waterproof jackets and gloves to protect you from the freezing wind. Boots with a solid tread to prevent slipping on slippery ice roads are an absolute must.
- Booking platforms such as The Luxe Nomad offer competitive rates on a variety of Niseko stays, and once you book, their concierge service (for transfers, restaurant reservations and more!), is free.
And last but not least, check out that travel insurance!
Happy skiing in Niseko!